My Biggest Mistake: Jeff Stanton - Quick solutions prove costly

Jeff Stanton, 50, trained as a chartered accountant, joining Hotpoint and moving to Currys, where he became finance director in 1982. He subsequently became director of rental firm Granada and was headhunted as chief executive of business services firm Cert plc

MY BIGGEST mistake was to act too quickly without consulting my staff. I would put that mistake down to the impetuousness of youth: it occurred when I was 26 and had just taken a role as a financial manager. When I got there, I was amazed. It had a Dickensian approach: I had inherited a financial department of about 40 people, split into 15 individual sections in about 10 offices. There were lots of partitions.

I had been there for about a month and thought it was ridiculous. The first thing was to make a smaller number of larger sections, so I talked to the office manager and we decided to actually break down the barriers physically. We didn't tell anyone, but we came in on a weekend and did it. When everyone came in on Monday, the partitions were down and the desks - which had been facing the front, like a schoolroom - were rearranged.

My thinking was: this is good and everybody will be very pleased. It was funny on the Sunday, but not on the Monday. I had a deposition from the staff, who were very upset. They said they needed their offices for privacy. They also said that if they faced each other, germs would spread more quickly, and this would cause serious problems. I had to decide whether to say, "This is a load of rubbish", or whether to back-pedal a bit and say, "I should have consulted you". It was a company that had been doing things a particular way for a long time.

In the end, everybody accepted it had been a stupid situation, but nobody had had the wherewithal to do anything about it because they felt too many people would be upset. My job, after the change, was to use some charm and say, "I've done it now: let's see how it goes." The problems could have been avoided by taking things more slowly: it was about managing change. I can't remember people skills being part of my accountancy course.

It was a lesson for the future, and as I have changed roles and become more senior and been involved in acquisitions, I've learnt that things are never what you expect. At one company, I took over a similar company and we spent ages producing a detailed plan, only to find it wasn't exactly what we anticipated. I have learnt to say, count to 10, and don't try to change anything until you have been working in that environment for a length of time.

At Cert, we acquired a new sales business last August and we committed to the people we bought it from that we would not change until 1999. Until you are involved in the business, you cannot understand it. It's easy to come up with a quick answer that proves to be an expensive mistake.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 per annum + commission: SThree: Sthree have an exciting opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £32,000+

£18000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Neil Pavier: Commercial Analyst

£50,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you a professionally qualified commercial ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?